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December 16, 2016 1:00 PM, EST

Werner Owner-Operator Named Top Rookie Military Driver, Wins Kenworth Truck

Ari Ashe/TT

An owner-operator who works at Werner Enterprises was named top rookie military driver by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes Program, winning a new Kenworth T680 worth more than $100,000.

Troy Davidson, a Navy veteran from Pensacola, Florida, took the top prize  Dec. 16, crying on stage after being announced as the winner.

Werner ranks No. 15 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

“It’s very humbling and honorable to be here. It’s a life-changing event for the better,” he said.

Davidson was an E-5 jet engine mechanic and received the Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal. At Werner, he is becoming a driver trainer to help guide the newest members of the trucking industry to become excellent drivers.

“I can’t stand not being on time. If you’re 15 minutes late, then it screws up your whole entire day. I just took what I learned in the military, adapted it to trucking and it was a smooth transition,” Davidson said.

He credited his family and Werner Enterprises for his success, but also singled out Lauren Woods, a government hiring specialist at the truckload carrier, for her critical role in his transition, telling reporters that he’s naming the truck after her. Davidson said he plans on starting his own company and continuing with Werner for the foreseeable future.

Runner-ups Russell Hardy with Trimac Transportation and Kevin Scott of TMC Transportation received checks for $10,000.

Trimac ranks No. 40 on the for-hire TT100. TMC ranks No. 5 in the Flatbed/Heavy Specialist sector.

Kevin Burch, chairman of the American Trucking Associations, said that with the aging workforce and driver shortages, it’s critical to hire veterans like the three finalists to keep the nation’s freight moving.

“Dedication and passion are key values of the truck drivers on the nations’ highways every day and what better connection do we have than veterans. They protect us and know it take takes to get the job done,” Burch said.

ATA has committed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Program, which has a goal of hiring 100,000 veterans into the trucking industry by the end of the year.